Odd and ends #3

Editor’s note: I changed the name of the post since I already had a series of short semi-related stories under the “Odds and Ends” banner. Like to be consistent.

Every day should be Politically Incorrect Day, but this one is a pretty good example. Maryland’s comptroller and onetime governor William Donald Schaefer got in trouble this week (from the Sun):

Responding to Schaefer’s request for tea, the woman, who serves as an executive assistant in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s front office, set a thermal mug in front of the 84-year-old comptroller. Schaefer watched her walk away and then beckoned for her to return. When she obliged, he told her to “Walk again” and stared after her as she left the room.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Schaefer defended the comment in a profanity-laced rant.

“That’s so goddamn dumb, I can’t believe it,” Schaefer said when asked about the appropriateness of his remarks. “She’s a pretty little girl.”

The comptroller said the woman “ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door.”

“The day I don’t look at pretty women is the day I die,” he said.

Of course, the Sun couldn’t resist noting that Schaefer “has a close personal and professional relationship” with Governor Ehrlich, despite the fact Schaefer is a Democrat and Ehrlich the GOP governor. And somehow that party affiliation escaped mention in the story!

I guess maybe the Sun is pissed because they lost their court case against Governor Ehrlich.

Speaking of the governor, it looks like he’ll keep at least one thing orderly about the 2006 elections, as he’s vowed to veto the bill to immediately restore felons’ right to vote. This means that the General Assembly wouldn’t have the opportunity to further gum up the electoral works until after this fall’s elections. It remains to be seen whether there will be more Republicans to help sustain the veto next year or if the governor’s chair switches back to the Democrats, in which case the bill could simply be reintroduced if desired.

Since felons ALREADY have that right after three years out of prison, I see no reason to change the law. The Democrats just wanted free votes that they couldn’t already steal with the other so-called “reforms.”

And another probable veto is in the works as a bill to allow pharmacists to distribute “emergency” contraception without a prescription was introduced today by State Senator Sharon Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat (duh!) NARAL notes that this bill is their “top priority” this year. Remember, NARAL stands for National Abortion Rights Action League, so it’s patently obvious what the prescription is really for.

So lots of little stuff going on, which makes for interesting and blended posts like this one.

Taking the test, again

Back in the ttrwc days I took the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” and it showed me as closer to libertarian than conservative.

Timmer at Righting America takes a different, longer quiz and is surprised by the results.

Read the post and you’ll see my comment about where I fell on it. I was only surprised about one direction.

Late edit: to show you how dense I am about computers sometimes, it was just today that I finally figured out how “trackbacks” work. So I actually am tracked back from Righting America.

Responses

I had a couple interesting comments to the last post so I decided to use the occasion for another post as a way to answer and extend the remarks on things happening locally.

The first portion answers “First Timer’s” comment.

I do live in Wicomico County, but my outrage at the so-called Dream Team is limited because of two factors, the most important being a lack of time perspective. I have no basis of comparison to a pre-2003 City Council to judge the current crop by. To use the term given by some with a touch of arrogance, I’m what’s called a “come-here.” For all I know, it could have been much worse back then! The second factor is that in about 14 months we can get rid of any of those people we desire to at the ballot box, provided anyone runs against them.

I have to admit that 2005’s election didn’t provide me a lot of comfort as far as the mayor’s race went. The guy I liked didn’t make it out of the primary, and the loser (Donald Long) pissed me off at a forum when he started ragging on Wal-Mart. I hate that anti-corporate bullshit. So I was holding my nose voting for that one – reminded me of most municipal elections I voted in back in Ohio. But since I live in District 2 and I got to hear Debbie Campbell in person at a candidate forum, I did vote for her. She seems like a passionate advocate for her neighborhood and the city of Salisbury.

As far as the worksession fiasco, I don’t care much for the tactics but I assume since Mike Dunn is the Council President he gets to set the rules for that as he sees fit. Obviously, open meetings statutes govern some of his actions but I don’t see that in this case. Not accommodating Debbie Campbell’s simple request does seem very strange, though…perhaps some of her pet passionate issues are on the agenda and they want no dissenting voice. Or, maybe Mike Dunn is bringing his 100 supporters of the Salisbury Mall site project to the meeting and needs the extra chair.

Now, to CD’s comment. I think he’s the type that would label me a “come-here.”

I have experience in the (fill in the blank) project is going to save the local economy scam. Back in the early ’80’s, because Baltimore had a “festival marketplace” and it was successful, the politicians in my native city of Toledo thought they could “save our dying downtown” by building one, which was called Portside. But there were two elements of common sense missing in their calculations:

1. To have a “festival marketplace” you need shops that people actually want to buy things from at a reasonable price.
2. If you want to be cold, walk along Toledo’s riverfront in January. It’s a lovely walk in the height of summer (when Portside first opened) but only the hardy walk there in the winter.

The timeline kind of went like this: In May, Portside opened. Business was great until about Labor Day. Come November, the first shops began to close because they couldn’t support the rent, which was parallel or higher to that of the local enclosed malls (which have tons of free parking and are close to where people actually live, unlike Portside.)

The experiment lasted about 2 or 3 years before the mostly empty Portside closed for good. Now it’s a science museum.

They tried the same argument with the new Mud Hens stadium. It’s a beautiful ballpark (you’ll see it this summer as Toledo hosts the 2006 AAA All-Star Game) but its economic impact: negligible. There’s a few added nightclubs and eateries downtown but nothing like what some forecast.

So saying that any project of the nature of Dorchester’s Hyatt project is going to “save the economy” immediately has to be taken with a grain of salt. Much more long-term economic impact would result if Wal-Mart builds that distribution center in Somerset. However, saying that, I think there is potential for this project to help the Dorchester economy moreso than Blackwater does now (as I argued.) I also think the environmental impact is way overblown by those who are more interested in stopping development in general than saving the Chesapeake in particular.

I would like to make one further point though as a caveat. A lot of the success of that Blackwater development depends on one thing: where will the jobs that support the incomes necessary to afford these homes come from?

By Mapquest’s calculations, it’s 28 miles from Cambridge to Seaford, 32 miles to Salisbury, 58 miles to Annapolis, and 65 miles to Dover. That’s a helluva commute, especially with gas being $2.25 a gallon or more. So most of these people are going to have to find work locally. Obviously with the increased population there is more demand for professional services (like doctors, dentists, lawyers, hopefully architects) and eventually for trickle-down positions like food service, lawn care, etc. The key is the professional jobs because you’re not going to live out there unless you OWN the restaurant or lawn service.

And, may I add, that the idea that development pollution is going to kill the entire ecosystem is even greater horsepatoot. Nature has a pretty good way of cleaning itself. We are a LONG way from becoming like the I-95 corridor. The Chesapeake ecosystem is going to outlive both of us and any kids we have.

I do have some additional comments as well. It’s funny how people that live in a place most of their lives have such a negative attitude about it whereas newcomers generally rave about the same place. I’m on the other side of this phenomenon now. I was very much the Toledo-basher when I lived there for most of 40 years, much like many of the comments I read on the local blogs here. In general I like this area – sure it has some faults but they’re fixable if someone wants to get the courage to apply the solutions. (I know, that’s the hard part.)

But to me, because the area is growing and there’s interest in even more growth, that is a great thing. Part of it is job-related, but part of it is having other people find the “diamond in the rough” we have here. I think it’s pretty cool that where I work, we have people who are native to Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, Hawaii, a whole bunch of Keystone State natives, a sprinkling of people from this area, and little old me from Ohio. Most people I worked with in Toledo were lifers there.

So I suppose my perspective on a lot of issues facing the Eastern Shore is one of the outsider looking in. Hell, there’s still many large portions of Salisbury I’ve never been in (and some I’m glad I haven’t.)

I notice that a lot of posting locally in the local blogosphere has been on account of the Salisbury Zoo. Think I’m going to do some research in a couple places for another post. That and maybe show up there sometime. On the other hand, Joe Albero and his handy camera have probably shown me much more there than I wanted to see!

A backwards approach

Today I came across a letter to the editor in the Daily Times. In it, the writer noted many of the struggles she’s gone through to get her site plan approved with the county and state, simply because she lives in an area adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The point of her letter was to ask why a homeowner can be held to a stricter standard than a developer. And she’s right…not because the developer should be held to a stricter standard, but because she should be held to a less onerous one. What she describes in her letter is absolute overkill on the part of Dorchester County and the state of Maryland.

She notes that her father, a onetime state senator, would oppose the proposed development. Therein lies the rub with me.

Although I’m ambivalent about the golf course (there’s plenty to choose from here and participation in golf seems to be on a decline) the idea of Cambridge and Dorchester County getting a shot in the arm with an influx of 3200 new homes has its appeal. I want to live in an area that people want to come to and make it their home. And these people would likely help out the city of Cambridge by creating new jobs for non-development residents, everything from the initial construction to the service and professional needs of the additional people. That creates a spinoff effect.

The same goes for the Summerfield subdivision planned for Snow Hill, which would create more than a thousand new residences over a multiyear period. I honestly believe that the additional growth would be good for the Eastern Shore. We’re not going to turn into the I-95 corridor overnight, contrary to what many believe. There’s always going to be open spaces, simply because not all of the land can be developed as it’s situated in lowlying areas.

But back to the BNWR, which, according to its website, has 500,000 visitors a year. Since the admission to the refuge for all intents and purposes is $3 (some get in for less and people can get multivisit passes), that means the impact on the area from admissions alone is $1.5 million. I’ll estimate that once overnight stays and meals that are consumed by out of area tourists are factored in, the impact could reach $5 million a year.

We all know that, once a piece of land becomes Federal property, it’s pretty much going to stay that way, particularly if it’s a natural refuge. (But if it were a military base, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation would be all for the military leaving.) So the BNWR will remain regardless of this development, and most of its 27,000 acres (by my calculations that is 42 square miles) will exhibit little if any effect. I see little chance of a drop in tourism there.

So the $5 million impact will continue (maybe it’ll drop to $4.5 million the first couple years until people realize that the development did little harm.) As an aside, this development may even be somewhat better for the environment since who knows what runoff occurs from the farmland that’s there now. Many’s the time in the spring in these parts that you catch a whiff of “natural” fertilizer. Moreover, additional tax revenue will come in from improved property values, and newly created jobs to cater to the added population. Yes, some will be offset by additional expenditures incurred for more government services like police, fire, and schools; but on balance the area should benefit while losing little of what it has now.

This leads me to an extremely short-sighted comment by gubertorial candidate Martin O’Malley, who is the current mayor of Baltimore. In a recent campaign stop in Caroline County, O’Malley claimed that it was cuts in state aid that were spurring development (hat tip: Delmarva Dealings.)

For one thing, what does O’Malley know about growth, considering Baltimore is losing population? Secondly, putting local governments in a position to depend on handouts from the state rather than trying to prosper through growth results in the same thing that always happens when there’s too much dependence on government: stagnation. Someday the spigot stops and towns are left to their own devices. To me, Cambridge is trying to break that cycle and should be commended for seeking a private-sector solution.

If the state of Maryland is going to use Blackwater as a poster child for a push to restrict growth, it’s someday going to end up in the same boat as many of the other “blue states” (and even red ones) that are losing population because of a declining local economy. Investment in development should be encouraged, not shunned. Sadly, the Democrats in Maryland, with their fringe environmentalist allies in this case, are throwing up more roadblocks to progress than is good for the people of this area.

Birthday man

Had he lived, today would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 95th birthday. President Reagan was the recipient of the first Presidential vote I ever cast in 1984. In my opinion, despite our current President’s heroic stand on fighting the menace of radical Islamic terror, President Reagan remains the greatest president of my lifetime.

He changed the attitude of an entire country, from the gloomy malaise of the Carter years to a sunny optimism that America could remain the “shining city on the hill.” And his economic policy managed to allow America both guns and butter, as his tax cuts spurred a generation of solid growth that continues to this day. Even if his successors forgot to read their own lips or simply worked as hard as they could without generating a middle-class tax cut, no one has suggested returning tax rates to their pre-Reagan levels.

In honor of Reagan’s birthday, today’s Federalist Patriot, as usual, devoted its entire issue to the words and legacy of President Reagan. This group also maintains a comprehensive website on Reagan conservatism.

On this anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan’s birth, both are very good resources on our 40th President.

Tradition

Back in the days when I was married the first time, my wife and I would be sitting up watching the Super Bowl. That was an era when most of the games were all but over by halftime, so we were basically watching it for the commercials at that point. And it’s not like my Lions or Browns were in it, thanks to John Elway half the time.

Anyway, after one Super Bowl blowout I turned to her and said, “Well, the Super Bowl is over. Know what that means?”

And she said, “No more football?”

To which I yelled in reply, “No, it means 2 1/2 weeks until pitchers and catchers report!!!!!”

I think after the second year she figured it out. But it’s my now slightly altered tradition:

TEN DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!!!!!

Let the REAL season begin.

Warm summer thoughts

This is the last of my three posts for tonight (so read on below, there’s lots of new stuff.)

But I happened across an article by Dayn Perry that put a smile on my face about my ballteam, the Detroit Tigers. So I thought it was worth sharing after two political posts. The warm thoughts are especially needed after reading this about Detroit. (Hopefully my New Fallujah friends are snuggled by the fire. Tell me again why I miss Ohio?)

So you want to run for office?

This morning I (along with 15 or so others) had the pleasure of attending a seminar sponsored by the local GOP with pointers on running for elective office. It’s something I’ve thought about doing from time to time, although for two years I actually held an elected office (because I ran unopposed.) My name was on the ballot for the Republican Central Committee in Lucas County, Ohio in 1998 and 2000. I think I lost the second election because my opponent’s name came first on the ballot.

And that was one thing our speaker, Dr. John Bartkovich, noted about this year’s election. It’s a Maryland election law that the party controlling the governor’s office gets its candidates listed first on the ballot. Personally, I think that’s a bit odd, but hey, that’s the law (until the Democrats try to change it for this year.) So Republicans have an “excellent opportunity.”

It’s actually a pretty simple thing to put your name on the ballot here in Maryland, assuming of course you’re a Republican or Democrat. There’s not even a petition involved like there is in Ohio, unless you’re running as an independent. You make an appointment with the Board of Elections and fill out a form. If you’re planning on spending over $1,000 on your campaign then you need to set up a bank account and pick a campaign treasurer, otherwise you fill out an affadavit stating you’ll spend less. (Hmmmm… a place to use those accountant skills my school aptitude tests said I’d be good at?) Hand the board a filing fee ($10 to $290, depending on office) and away you go.

In Wicomico County, where I live, we have all of our elected county offices on the ballot this year. The really funny thing is that, aside from the State’s Attorney position requiring Maryland Bar membership, there’s few qualifications specifically listed. Theoretically I can be a Judge in the Orphan’s Court. (This position has evolved from Colonial days, it’s now basically the equivalent to what I’d refer to as Probate Court and deals with wills.) As Dr. Bartkovich said, you need “no experience, just a fire in the belly.”

Currently Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore is in transition. While Democrats outnumber Republicans as far as registration (it’s about a 55-45 ratio), no Democrat governor or presidential candidate has carried the county since 1986 (when the GOP candidate only had 18% of the vote statewide.) Basically, many Democrats here would be described as Zell Miller Democrats. They don’t really go for the ultra left-wing issues like the moveon.org crowd does. So they register Democrat and vote GOP, at least for state and national offices.

The key to winning most races is name recognition. For some races it takes money for media, but in many instances it can be as simple as standing along Route 50 and waving a sign. However, the key races of interest to Dr. Bartkovich will likely take plenty of money. One is the County Executive race, since this will be a firsttime position (it was created by an initiative voted on in the 2004 election.) The next priorities are unseating two of our Delegates, the infamous duo of Norman Conway and Bennett Bozman. We actually have candidates already for that, but John would like a person from Wicomico County on the ballot (both of the GOP candidates live in Worcester County.) That race will probably take $40,000 to have a prayer since both incumbents have plenty of money on hand.

There will be a lot of help come September once the primary is over. Both parties will know just who their officeseekers are, and can put the full weight of the party apparatus behind those folks. So I get the feeling some of my fall weekends might be spent pitching in here and there. But it should be fun! Almost as fun as harassing the union thugs working the polls back in Toledo.

So it was an hour and a half well-spent. It was a good way to stoke the political passion I have, and who knows, once I get settled in down here, I just may toss my hat in the ring.

Disappointments

It was a pretty disappointing week in some political respects for me. I know I’m coming a bit late to the party in reacting to the State of the Union address, but I actually have a life and sometimes it gets in the way of regular blogging. Actually, it wasn’t that bad of an address from what I read (I didn’t want to watch it, figured I can read it a whole lot faster) but there were a few things that I thought should be more taken advantage of.

Every year of my presidency, we’ve reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Only $14 billion? Out of a $2.6 trillion budget? Here’s what he should have proposed:

“Tonight I call on Congress to fix our budgetary mess. Our deficit spending has two causes: one is the rapid growth of entitlement spending, as by 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget.

The other cause is a process Congress uses called baseline budgeting. It allows those in the opposition party to call a smaller increase in spending on a program a ‘cut.’ Congress needs to pass legislation to return our country to a true budget. Instead of programs automatically increasing in size, it would help keep the growth of government in check to start from the previous year’s budgetary numbers, and truly make a cut in a program a reduction in spending.” (The italics were from his actual speech.)

I will say that I’m glad he’s going to try to push Social Security reform this year. Of course, my idea of reform would be to sunset it and the FICA tax eventually, but no one has the balls in Congress to propose that. It’s not quite the “third rail” of politics that it used to be, but it’s still a program with a whole lot of votes attached to it – and no one really wants to piss off the AARP lobby. (Another reason I’d never be elected to Congress. But that’s the country’s loss.)

But this “bipartisan commission” crap has got to go. Here’s my idea of a bipartisan commission – find the closest Democrat to the philosophy of Zell Miller, and he’s your one Democrat. Kennedy, Pelosi, Kerry, and Reid need not apply. I seem to recall that the GOP has the majority in both houses of Congress and is in the White House. Do you think if a Democrat was in charge that (s)he would want a bipartisan solution and listen to conservatives? Yeah, right, I have some land in Florida to sell you too.

Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly…

Well, really, President Bush, no it doesn’t. That implies health care is a right, and I don’t see that in my copy of the Constitution. Now, if the states want to have a crack at it (as several do) that’s perfectly all right. But that statement just reeks of entitlement, and my view is we need to get rid of as much federal government in that as we can!

So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative — a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research — at the Department of Energy…

What is wrong with the private sector doing this kind of research? Why is it up to the government to pick out the most promising programs? Unfortunately, a lot of government research turns out to be stuff like why people can’t sell ice to Eskimos. And wasn’t the Department of Energy something that the Contract with America talked about cutting out?

I don’t have a problem with the goal of the program, although I think we can do a whole lot to cut our dependence on foreign oil in the short-to-medium term by exploring and getting oil out of the ANWR area. Eventually other technology will supplant oil just as natural gas supplanted coal, which succeeded wood for being the main source for heating the home.

Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.

First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We’ve made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs.

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. It’s a good idea, but, once again, why has it become a federal responsibility to do this? And where do we get the money to pony up for all this stuff?

I suppose the State of the Union address has just become a speech on how we’re going to spend more of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money on keeping bureaucrats busy granting money to the people who write grant applications the best and suck up to the right people. *sigh* What a disappointment.

Then came the other disappointment this week, as the House voted to elect Rep. John Boehner as House Majority Leader. Many conservatives (including me) were hoping for Rep. John Shadegg to win, but he lost after the first round of voting with just 40 votes. So count me as not sold on this new leadership. But if Boehner can shepherd needed legislation through the House (keeping the moderate RINO’s in line) and puts enough of a new face on the party to minimize the effects from the ethics scandal (now that’s bipartisanship in action!) then he may well turn out to be a good choice.

Maybe he can get some of the things President Bush forgot to mention in the SOTU like getting serious about slowing the growth of government through the House. Then all we need are Senators with some cajones.

New theme

Tonight I decided to change to a three-column theme, although if you were just on a little bit ago it was two columns stacked on top of each other for some reason! So I’m still messing with it a bit.

In the next couple days I’ll figure out how to bring Gaggle back. I think I know but I’m not playing with it anymore tonight. Still have reading to do. I need to read the State of the Union address, it’s much faster than actually hearing it.

Let me know what you all think of the new look. I may want to brighten the colors up just a touch but I actually like the neutrals at the moment. It reminds me of my apartment here, unrelentingly neutral in whites and tans. I only have a couple pieces of furniture that aren’t neutral.

Two great quotes

Both of these are in today’s Federalist Patriot:

“I personally believe there is no place in the federal government for a Department of Education. It is not in the Constitution. There is no mention anywhere in the Constitution that the federal government has any role in education. I believe that the federal government doesn’t have a role in education. I have several members of my family, including my wife, who are teachers, who are not at all happy with the so-called No Child Left Behind bill, which I think has gone far astray from what it was even intended to do. And I would like to hope that at some point we could get the federal government out of the business of education altogether, and acknowledge that this is policy that should be decided at the state level.” —Rep. John Shadegg

This man is in the race to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay as the House Majority Leader. And with an attitude like that, it’s no wonder many in the conservative camp are pulling for him over Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. John Boehner of my native state of Ohio.

The GOP majority in the House was elected 12 years ago under the banner of the “Contract with America.” Unfortunately, the power of the purse with the ability to steer other people’s money to favored constituents has eroded the Republicans’ desire to continue pursuing some of the items that they wanted to accomplish in the mid-90’s. (Those were a lot of the reasons I became politically active in that period.)

Education is properly a state issue. And while the cabinet-level federal Department of Education is a relatively new creation, established in 1980 under the Carter administration, its roots trace back to Reconstruction days. Slowly but surely, the federal government expanded its role in children’s education. And while they provide only 10 cents of every education dollar spent in this country, it’s the vast array of federal laws and regulations that force districts to spend much more than they receive in federal funds (which, in turn, are also contingent on school districts following certain regulations.)

Properly, money should follow the child, and parents should be allowed to determine what education is best for their child. Most parents do care. It’s why houses in certain school districts are worth far more than similar houses in less desirable areas. It’s why some parents forgo Disney World vacations and keep the old beater for another year in order to save up for private school tuition, meanwhile paying an ever-increasing local property tax to a local public school district where expenditures increase but test scores decline. Some parents even go farther, forgoing the opportunity to work outside the home and enhance their income for the opportunity to teach their children in their own way by homeschooling them.

“One of the things that drives Republicans crazy is the media’s enormous double-standard in how they cover various scandals… Skeptics can go to the Web site of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, popularly known as the House ethics committee. Click on ‘historical documents,’ and go to a publication called ‘Historical Summary of Conduct Cases in the House of Representatives.’… By my count, there have been 70 different members of the House who have been investigated for serious offenses over the last 30 years, including many involving actual criminality and jail time. Of these, only 15 involved Republicans, with the remaining 55 involving Democrats.” —Bruce Bartlett

Still 15 too many as far as the GOP is concerned. (Doesn’t surprise me about the Democrats.) And I actually did look at the summary – almost all of them involve allegations of improper personal gain. When he was Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich was the target of several different investigations, almost always brought by members of the minority party (that would be the Democrats.) Same thing has happened to Tom DeLay on a couple occasions.

Back in the 1980’s when the Democrats were running the Congress, many in that party fell by the wayside for ethics violations. The Democrat dominance of the House ended in 1994, partly due to the “Contract with America” (see above), but also in part to two large scandals that showed members of Congress taking advantage of perks from the House Bank and House Post Office.

Neither party has a monopoly on honest government – thus I renew my call for getting as much taxpayer loot out of the hands of Congress as possible. Sure, dishonest politicians are found at every level, from President to the local dogcatcher. But it’s so much easier to hold a local politician to account for his misdeeds.

And, finally, here’s a reason I don’t subscribe to the Daily Times.

With the exception of Iraq and national security, each of the bullet points cited in the editorial has a solution much better handled in the private sector or by allowing more control by citizens in their lives than by expanded government.

And there’s a couple things that I think President Bush needs to touch on that aren’t cited in this editorial, probably because liberals like those at the Daily Times editorial board know that the best solution is that proposed by conservatives: Social Security and border security/illegal immigration. Actually, I see that border security is strangely absent from the other national security points cited in the editorial.

To show leadership in this election year, I think President Bush needs to tackle Social Security again, get tougher about border security, and admit he made a mistake: pare down the Medicare prescription drug program to just those seniors in need or scrap it altogether.

(No, moonbats, Iraq/Afghanistan does NOT appear on my list of Bush mistakes.)

I generally do not watch the State of the Union address, since I can read it afterward much faster than I can hear it and, as an aside, I don’t have to be subjected to the Democrat response unless I want to read it for a good laugh – we all know their sole purpose in life right now is to stop whatever President Bush and the Republicans want to do. They sure don’t have a lot of unique solutions and aren’t doing much looking for common ground.

Maybe that’s why, even with the Abramoff scandal on the front pages, it’s widely considered that the GOP majority in Congress will remain for another term. While it’s a good thing, there does need to be new blood at the top and fresh leadership on important issues. That brings me full circle on this post, as I’m among those hoping for a victory by Rep. Shadegg.

It was twenty years ago today…

While I’m borrowing from the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper, this is much more somber.

Sometimes in life you have those “I remember where I was when I found out about (blank)” moments. One of mine was walking into the dining area for lunch in Scott Hall, Miami University, on a Tuesday in January of 1986, and finding they had the overhead radio on. I never recalled that before, but it was playing that day.

That was the day that the seven members of the space shuttle Challenger met their demise after an ill-fated 73 second flight. Today it’s been 20 years since that event.

A lot has changed at NASA in the two decades since this happened, and many people question the validity of the space program. It’s understood that the space shuttle program is likely on its last legs – basically it survives as a means of getting items to the International Space Station. NASA is currently a mission in flux, as some want to continue the planetary expedition it’s known for and others would like to see a successor to the space shuttle be built. Further, private companies have moved into the shuttle market as the X Prize offered for a reusable spacecraft was won in 2004.

But at the time the space shuttles were something in which America took pride and joy. In 1986, people were beginning to see space travel as becoming commonplace, as 15 shuttle flights were scheduled for that year. While the Apollo flights were huge news and TV networks were wall-to-wall on them (this in the day before cable news), after the first few shuttle flights it was just expected for them to complete their appointed missions and land safely. The Challenger never did.

Eventually the tragedy was blamed on gasketing on the shuttle that lost its flexibility. At the time Florida was in the midst of a cold snap.

In place of the scheduled State of the Union address that night, President Reagan made some of his best remarks:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.

I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

A few years ago, we lost another shuttle crew as they were only minutes from landing. And as alluded to in President Reagan’s remarks, NASA has lost good astronauts before. But on that chilly January day in 1986, America lost a little piece of its innocence and a bit of its swagger. While Americans went from flight to moon landing in just 66 years, we realized space wasn’t going to be as easy to conquer as we were led to believe.